Northern Ireland health minister Bairbe de Brun must rule on whether local hospitals in Omagh and Enniskillen should close in favour of a new and much larger unit on a greenfield site between them.

A bid by Fermanagh district council to block the move failed last week after a judge rejected its application for a judicial review.

Western health and social services board welcomed the decision, and its chief executive, Tom Frawley, said the board believed there was a very strong case for building a new unit.

'The question will be, do we go for a pure greenfield site or should we look at redeveloping existing locations? The minister now has the total picture to enable her to make a decision as part of her review of acute services across the country.'

Any new unit is unlikely to be completed before 2006 and would cost an estimated£75m.

Stanley Millar, chief officer for Western health and social services council, said his organisation was disappointed that the local authority had involved the courts. 'This has delayed the whole process and the uncertainty has been very unhealthy. We are not unhappy with the board's suggestion for a new unit on a greenfield site.'